By Dennis Seid adn Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal
Mississippi State baseball fans back home were just as wrapped up Monday night in the Bulldogs’ quest for a national championship as the MSU faithful who were actually on the scene in Omaha.
Fans seeking solidarity in numbers poured into the stands at Dudy Noble Field in Starkville and in eateries and watering holes in Tupelo to watch the Bulldogs play UCLA on the jumbo screen in the first of a best-of-three series.
Scott Wetherbee is the MSU associate athletic director who came up with the idea of opening the stadium.
“It’s such a passionate fan base, we wanted to let them cheer together in a family-type atmosphere,” he said.
Dollar hot dogs, dollar popcorn and prize giveaways also were part of the plan.
And with hundreds filling the stands before the game started, MSU officials will open the stadium again tonight.
Christopher Powe brought his sons David, 14, and Joshua, 9, to Dudy Noble Field.
All the way from Brandon.
“We brought the RV up,” Powe said.
Granted, Powe’s daughter is at the MSU softball camp this week, which made a “road trip” a little easier.
“Things just happened to work out,” Powe said, noting that his boys were at MSU’s basketball camp during the Diamond Dogs’ NCAA Regional run a couple weeks back.
“We’re so proud – this is good for Mississippi, not just Mississippi State.”
Also proud and happy fans were Linda and Samantha Rogers, who made the shorter trek from Columbus to Dudy Noble.
“I can holler, and my daughter said I could do it with a lot of other fans here instead of at the TV,” Linda said.
There were other venues where fans gathered as well.
The crowd that packed Buffalo Wild Wings in Tupelo brought their own electric atmosphere.
“We’ve been this crowded every game since Mississippi State played in the super regional tournament,” said manager Ron Rose. “It feels like a stadium in here. The community is so involved, and it makes my job fun.”
MSU students Brandy Davis and Cassidy Bailey, along with alumnus Kristen Harrison, came with bells on to watch the game – cowbells, that is.
“We believe in our Dogs,” Harrison said. “I don’t know what we’ll do if they win. Probably cry.”
Davis was one of the many State fans to make the trip to Omaha to catch their team’s earlier performance in the tournament.
“It was awesome,” she said. “There are so many State fans up there.”
State fans Kyle Weaver, Ethan Wallace, and Justin Byrd have been following the team all season.
“We didn’t exactly expect them to get this far at the beginning, but we knew if there was ever a year for them to win the tournament, this one is it,” Byrd said.
“They were lucky to get out of the regional in Starkville, but they have really been showing their talent since then,” Wallace said. “It’s the best team they’ve had in a long time.”
Wallace said MSU’s success was a great representation of the Southeastern Conference as a whole, drawing fans of other SEC teams to watch the game.
“If it had been Ole Miss to make it up there, I’d be cheering for them,” Wallace said.
Across town at the Fairpark Grill, Allen Tyra and Shayne Benedetto echoed their sentiment. The two are fans of the University of Alabama and Tulane, respectively.
“I’ve been following them since the post season started,” Benedetto said. “I thought they looked strong, especially in the super regional.”
“Their hitting has really made the difference for them,” Tyra said. “I called them to do well early. Above all, we’re SEC fans.”